LIS 505 - Introduction to computers

computer literacy

The ability to use computers - mostly software applications rather than programming or hardware.


Things you can touch (even if that is not a good idea), such disks, disk drives, screens, keyboards, printers, boards, and chips.


Broadly, software is anything that can be stored electronically. Usually, it refers primarily to programs


Organized lists of instructions that computers can follow.


People who use computers but not to develop new computer products.


Machines that can execute programs. Modern computers are usually digital (they work with discrete numbers) and electronic (core operations do not involve moving parts).

personal computers

Relatively inexpensive computers designed for individual users. Sometimes called PCs (originally an IBM brand name) or microcomputers (an older name).


Somewhat more expensive computers designed for individual users, usually for special applications like desktop publishing and usually connected to a network.


Technology allowing Web browsing on a TV set. A Microsoft trademark. Capron and Johnson refer to net computers or net boxes for the generic category, but these should not be confused with NetPCs, which are stripped-down personal computers designed to work only on networks.

notebook computers

Very lightweight personal computers (typically under 3 kilograms) designed to be carried around. . Formerly (when somewhat larger) more often called laptop computers. .


Handheld devices that combine telephone/fax, networking, and some computing features. Short for personal digital assistants. Also called palmtops or hand-held computers.


Very expensive computers capable of supporting 200+ users simultaneously, but not as fast as supercomputers.


The fastest type of computer, very expensive.


Numbers, character strings, images, etc., which can be received, stored, processed, and transmitted by humans or computers.


A message received and understood that reduces the recipient's uncertainty. Equal to data plus meaning.


The most important part of a computer, where most calculation takes place. Short for central processing unit. Also referred to as processor, central processor, or (in a personal computer) microprocessor.

peripheral devices

Computer devices other than the essential computer, including mice, keyboards, printers, monitors, modems, scanners, and disk drives with removable media.


Groups of two or more computer systems linked together. (A computer system consists of a computer, software, and peripheral devices.)

local area networks

LANs. Networks that cover relatively small areas, such as single buildings.


Devices that allow computers to communicate over telephone lines. Short for modulator-demodulators.


A global network connecting millions of computer systems.


Internet service providers. Companies that provide access to the Internet.

Web sites

Sites on the World Wide Web each consisting of one or more files, including a home page.

home pages

Main pages of Web sites.


Acceptable Use Policies. Written policies specifying how users should use and not abuse computer resources.


Last updated October 29, 2002.
This page maintained by Prof. Tim Craven
E-mail (text/plain only):
Faculty of Information and Media Studies
University of Western Ontario,
London, Ontario
Canada, N6A 5B7